To really become good at jumping your mountain bike you must first understand the various types of jumps and related terminology. From there, it’s time to understand the what, why and how of jumping. And once you’ve got all that dialed, learn how to apply your new understanding of jumping mechanics to all the different types of jump features you might encounter on a trail. Learning how to jump isn’t a straightforward journey – it’s takes time, practice, and a good guide. That’s where we come into play. Let’s get started.
The following illustration breaks down the parts and types of jumps you may encounter on your local trails or bike park. Get familiar with the terminology!
Next, let’s break down the what, why and how to put it all together into 8 steps. The end goal will look like this (see: the human, not the dog).
1. Inspect and Visualize
Prior to attempting the jump, get off your bike and inspect the jump and the landing. Figure out the best angle for approach and exactly where you’d like to land your bike. Then, visualize yourself successfully completing the jump. A simple rule that will keep you safe: if you can’t visualize yourself successfully completing the jump, don’t jump it. Perhaps the jump is too big? Or the face is too steep, or you’re unsure of the landing? Skip it and work on jumps you feel more comfortable with – then work your way up to the more difficult jumps.
Once you’ve visualized yourself jumping successfully and have determined the best line, it’s time to jump.
2. Get Ready
Ride towards the jump in a high ready position on the bike. Stay focused, present, and positive–a little positive self-talk is a great idea here. Once you reach the point of commitment (your last opportunity for bail-out), stop pedaling and raise up a little — relax.
Next, as you transition down into your ready position, compress your bike with the goal of your compression ending on the face of the jump. Ideally, this should be a short / powerful compression initiated with your feet — think STOMP. Your elbows should be out and your knees bent.
Your compression (stomp) will result in an equal and opposite explosion / rebound thrusting your bike into the air. Let your bike fly! Be as light as you can at this point and allow the bike to rise into the air. If your compression timing is correct, you will sail right over your jump.
Pro Tip: You can clear a gap/table using speed and/or COMPRESSION. Just because you are clearing a table with speed, doesn’t mean you’ve got the compression right. Slow down and try to clear the jump with compression (rather than speed).
Perfect the timing – figuring out when to compress can be challenging. Start by rolling the jump the feel when the bike naturally compresses – mentally mark that spot- and then focus on compressing then. Don’t pull up on the bike, rise up with your bike!
The biggest mistakes we see riders make when trying to jump is the lack of compression on the take-off (face) of the jump. If you don’t compress your bike will behave very similarly to a rock. Gravity will get the best of you (and your bike) and you will promptly get pulled back down to earth a la Newton’s apple. So stomp down on those pedals like you mean it. Get aggressive. Grrrr.
Note: You don’t need suspension on your bike to compress it — compressing is merely the action of stomping your feet quickly.
4. Take Off — Go for height!
Once you’ve got the hang of you timing and are clearing the gap / table, try putting a small object such as a few sticks piled up to practice clearance. More compression = more height!
Once you’re flying, relax and resume your ready position and keep looking forward to your intended landing spot. Push your bike down onto your desired landing spot to increase. Your arms and legs are your primary suspension when landing so keep them relaxed enough to absorb the impact, but sturdy enough so that you don’t lose control of your bike.
Where you land is up to you — jumping and hoping you land where you’d like to land is a risky proposition. When you’re flying, look down and spot your landing. Tell that front wheel where you want it to go – set a target (“x”), extend your arm pushing your front wheel down and try to hit it.
If the jump has a descending landing, land on your front wheel right before your rear wheel. This will give you more directional control and smooth out the landing. If you land rear wheel first on a descending landing, the front of the bike is likely to pivot forward and slam the ground thus thrusting your weight abruptly forward and potentially over the front of the bike.
If your landing is flat, land with your rear wheel first. Landing on flat surfaces is more abrupt than landing on a descending landing. Landing on your rear wheel first allows you to use your legs to absorb the majority of the landing force. Relying on your suspension solely tends to cause a hard landing and a potential for loss of traction.
Land light! Practice landing light like a feather.
6. Roll Out
As you touch-down and resume your ready position, bring your head and eyes up looking down the trail.
You’ll find that if you add more speed and more compression, you’ll fly higher and further. It’ll take some time to calibrate your brain, body and bike to take off and land precisely as you intend. Experiment with controlling your landing – rear wheel first, front wheel first, both wheels and then play with your distance and height.
Table-top jumps are the most forgiving and one of the best places to take your jumping skills to the next level. If you short a table-top (don’t make the landing), there isn’t much of a consequence, just land on the ‘top’ of the jump. Unlike a double where you have to make the landing spot or you risk casing your bike.
Try applying these skills to different types of jumps (gaps, doubles, steep face, steep landing, flat landing etc.). Make a note of how your compression and/or speed varies depending on the feature.
As your confidence (and skill) increases, pick bigger obstacles, going up and downhill while jumping, experiment with your air-time and HAVE FUN! If you’d like to learn more and practice jumping in a safe, controlled environment with real-time feedback, join us for a Jumping Fundamentals Mini-clinic.
The Guru’s #1 passion is taking bike skills and breaking them down into tangible, progressive steps. Is there a skill you just can’t master? A maneuver you don’t understand? A fear you can’t seem to get past? Turn to the Guru! The Ninja Skills Guru has spent years riding bikes and carefully breaking down riding skills into easy digestible steps so you can tackle the trail with confidence. Yup, the guru is that friend who doesn’t talk about anything but bikes!
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher!...
Woohoo! As good as it gets is appropriate! Richard is not only a great rider, he is a great teacher! I would encourage everyone to stay away from the mind trap that buying a more expensive mountain bike is what you need to ride better. Spend the money on lessons instead, and I know you will be happier (and safer) in the long run. I can't say enough positive things about the Bike Skills clinics. ~ Chris G.
Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence!
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much...
Wow, a friend and I just did a one day private lesson with Richard and I can’t believe how much we learned. I’ve been riding for over 10 years but with all self taught skills. We wanted to learn fundamentals the right way and Richard took us through all of that (along with critical bike setup) and the intermediate stuff that they teach in one day plus he spent an extra hour at the end to teach us jumping which I had always been nervous about. Within one hour we we clearing a 5 foot jump easily and with confidence, we even learned to move the bike in the air on a crossed take off and landing. I think my favorite part though was riding fast on the very gnarly technical descent. We will be booking up more private lessons during the summer at Big Bear. Thanks Richard you are a very good teacher! ~John U.
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and...
I took a Fundamental Skill clinic last weekend and learned so much! I've been riding for a few years and felt stuck and was not improving at all. Aaron was a great instructor! Very patient and broke down everything step by step and we repeated the skills until we felt comfortable. I look forward to mastering the skills I learned and taking another clinic in the spring. ~Jody Hachenberger-Amend
Special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in!
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August...
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the skills 2 day camp in Santa Fe New Mexico August 20th and 21st. Richard and Aaron and Catherine where fantastic trainers and teachers they brought new light into basic skills of riding each person in the group was able to excel in what we were doing before we moved on to some other awesome skill or task individual attention was felt by all in the group and visible Improvement was seen in all Riders when we have you back next year you should plan on doubling or tripling the number of riders thanks for a super fun weekend and special thanks to Santa Fe Fat Tire Society for bringing you in and of course thanks to Richard and Aaron and Kathryn. ~Bruce Hamby
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly...
This past fall I finally broke down and upgrade my mountain bike. I was riding a hard tail bike mostly for the workout. After racing in an Xterra, I realized that a new bike was in my future. ( I could tell a huge story about the process of purchasing a new MB and the massive amount of miss information you can obtain from bike shops. Especially when you know nothing about bikes. ) Not long after I purchased the new MB, I had my first over the handle bars wreck. I still cannot remember the actual crash. I can see the rut that I am about to hit on the downhill, and then I remember waking up on the trail barely able to breath. The crash gave me some time to catch up on email. One of those emails was a beginners MB clinic hosted by Richard and the Ride Like a Ninja crew. I swallowed my pride and signed up. To date I have done everything I was taught. I made every adjustment to my bike that was recommended. I then had the bike fitted. The skills taught that day are priceless to me. For the first time I understand what position my body needs to be in for each type of terrain. I am not perfect by any means, but in my mind I am shouting the word NINJA to remind myself. I practice the techniques ever time I ride. ~ Hal N.
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